Review: ‘Retribution’

Liam Neeson Takes The Dull Road In Lame 'Getaway'-esque Thriller

I’ll be honest, it’s depressing to see action stars I once liked begin to age out of doing them. Not that they ever stop, mind you; it’s just the action is diminished until eventually they aren’t doing much but sitting around while the good stuff happens around them. For Liam Neeson, who took on the role of action star later in his career, and once proclaimed that he was done with it, he’s been coasting for a while now. With Neeson’s latest, Retribution, he finally gives up in a tired thriller that barely asks him to do more than fasten his seat belt.

The film begins with an explosion, but don’t be fooled. A tremendous amount of nothing is right around the corner. Neeson plays Matt, one of those shady businessmen whose job it is to part clients from their money, whether they want to or not. He’s got a wife (Embeth Davidtz) who seems sorta checked out, a son (Avatar: The Way of Water‘s Jack Champion) who clearly hates him, and a daughter (Lily Aspell) who just wants her busy Dad’s attention. Well, she’ll soon wish he had let her take the bus to school.

During an already-tense drive, Matt gets a phone call from a mysterious stranger warning him that there’s a bomb under the car, and if he or anyone gets out, it’ll detonate. So it’s almost like the same premise from that awful Ethan Hawke/Selena Gomez flick Getaway, only worse. There’s very little tension to be found despite the combustible premise. The voice on the other end of the line doesn’t really have anything novel to say that makes him a compelling threat. Initially, it’s a bit murky whether Matt deserves what’s coming to him or not, and that is probably when the film is at its best. But this being a Neeson star vehicle, the edges are sanded off of his character pretty quickly.

There are a few explosions and lots of speeding around town, but it grows tired pretty quickly. It’s a disappointing effort from once-promising director Nimrod Antal, who directed what I feel is a pretty underrated Predators movie and the slasher film Vacancy. There just isn’t much here for a filmmaker to leave any real fingerprint. This is the kind of thing an up ‘n coming director does to get some experience.

At this point, I’d like to see Neeson return to old form and leave the action movies behind. I sorta miss rom-com Liam Neeson, or the Schindler’s List dramatic Neeson. Retribution isn’t going to make anyone happy, not even those who still like to think of him as the Taken guy. That was more than a decade ago and that particular set of skills is long gone.

Retribution opens in theaters on August 25th.

Travis Hopson
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.
review-retributionI'll be honest, it's depressing to see action stars I once liked begin to age out of doing them. Not that they ever stop, mind you; it's just the action is diminished until eventually they aren't doing much but sitting around while the good...